Never Been Kissed
By Bella Taggart
Erica Hahn briskly walked in to the Seattle Grace Hospital. It was early. She had been up half the night; sleep escaping her despite all her efforts. Every time she closed her eyes the image of Callie Torres walking out of the bar with Mark Sloane of all people came back to her.
She had been careful or she had thought she had been careful. But in the face of one doctor Torres, her carefully drawn lines had blurred very quickly.
She didn't know when she had started feeling things she shouldn't for the vibrant woman, when she had crossed that line. But somehow she had. If she didn't know anything about herself at least she knew that. She wouldn't be feeling like this otherwise.
Erica never got sick, it was one of those inexplicable things. Her genes somehow guaranteed that she stay healthy at all times.
She remained healthy as a child, when her mother had sent her to play in the neighbor's house whose daughter had the Chicken Pox. Again in college when her entire sociology class, including the teacher came down with a severe case of the flu and class was cancelled for two days. And even as an adult when she got locked out of her apartment in the middle of the night and had to wait in a rainstorm for the locksmith to come and open the door.
She just didn't get sick. Well, that was unless she was falling in love. She had been in love twice in her life. Once in high school and once in med-school. Both had been all consuming affairs, both had ended badly and both times she had been as sick as a dog.
Today her stomach was rolling and she had a headache. Hoping she was wrong, she quickly passed the lobby and soon found herself in the locker room.
Stripping her leather jacket, her eye caught Callie Torres's locker. She stood looking at the grey steel door. As if staring at it long enough could reveal its contents or at the very least give a clue as to its owner's whereabouts. Had Callie arrived already? The lock was firmly in place, facing out. Had it been facing out the night before?
What was she thinking, of course she hadn't arrived yet. It was barely 5.00 am. Just because she couldn't sleep, it didn't mean that Callie wouldn't be able to either. In fact she was probably still in Sloan's arm. She turned away and slammed her own locker closed, her toe catching the full force of the steel.
She jumped reaching for her hurt foot.
It was going to be a long day.
Callie was yanked out of sleep by the dreadful noise of the alarm. What the hell was that? It sounded more like a fire alarm then anything else. She rolled over, trying to figure out the origin of the racket. Finally spotting it, she reached over the empty bed and smacked the clock shut.
She sat up trying to make sense of where she was. Feeling disoriented she tried to remember what she had done last night.
Mark. That's what she had done. She was in Mark's bed. Alone. Then she noticed the light coming through the door to her left and realized that the shower was running.
She sat still, holding onto her head, trying to ease her way out of her hangover. Spotting her spattered clothes on the gray floor, she slowly got up and started collecting them. A moment later, the door to the bathroom opened, revealing a very naked Mark Sloane covered by what could only be called a hand towel.
In the dark of the room, with the steam and light from the bathroom framing his naked form, he looked like something out of a photo-shoot. She had to admit he was attractive and the nickname "mcsteamy" had never seemed so appropriate.
"Good morning sunshine."
"Hey, have you seen my bra?
Callie was already dressed and very much on her way out the door.
"Nope, are you going somewhere?"
"I just have to get home and grab a change of clothes before my rounds."
Mark dropped his towel and pulled on a pair of boxers.
"If you give me 5 minutes I could drop you off?"
"No that's ok, I should get going."
Before she could walk away, Mark caught up to her. He reached out and gently cupped her face.
"Yeah, I am fine, just hung-over."
"You want some aspirin?"
She thought for a moment. There was no point in trying to run away. They were both adults and they had done this before. It hadn't been weird then, and there was no reason it should be weird now.
"Actually, yeah that would be good."
They walked into the open kitchen in the loft.
He placed 2 pills and a glass of water on the counter in front of her.
He leaned back on the counter watching her down the pills at once.
She was a beautiful woman. Voluptuous. Unlike the twigs he was used to bringing home. And she was great in bed. They had great chemistry together and last night she had been especially dominating.
"I had a great time last night."
For a moment, Erica's face flashed before her eyes, then Addison's questioning eyes. She caught the smirk in his lips and blushed.
"Yeah... me too."
"You sure you are all right?"
"Yes. Are you all right?"
"I am great."
Callie picked up her bag.
"I really should get going."
He walked her to the elevator door which also served as the entrance into his loft and held it open for her.
"I'll see you at work." She said.
"See you at work, Doctor."
She reached up and pecked him on the lips.
He smiled, made a little wave with his hand and closed the door.
By noon, Erica had already done her rounds, met with a new patient and performed a bypass operation on a 58 year old man. During the morning she had gradually relaxed in the routine of her back to back schedule. Medicine she knew. Patients she could handle. The operating room was practically her playground and during the surgery she had finally felt in control.
However as the lunch hour closed by, she once again felt her resolve slipping. For weeks now she and Callie had been having lunch together. Through some unspoken agreement, unless there was an operation scheduled, they would find each other by the latest at 12.30 and go to the cafeteria together.
She checked her watch for the second time in the last 10 minutes. It was 12.45 and Callie was nowhere to be seen.
Paperwork it was.
She wasn't that hungry any way. She pulled a chair in the nurses' station and started going through files. Her afternoon was going to be packed. She had two surgeries scheduled and she knew it would be good if she could relax beforehand. That's where the paperwork came in. She figured if she could simply get lost in the mundane act of filling pages with facts then she wouldn't have to think of anything else.
She was wrong.
Callie had actually left with Sloane. Erica knew that they had slept together before but she had thought that that was over. The way she was moving all over him on the dance floor, the seductive look in her eyes... maybe it wasn't over. Maybe she had been a fool to even hope...
Even before the couple left the bar, Callie had been acting weird. The way she downed those drinks, the way she spoke. To an outsider she probably looked like a tipsy girl having a good ol' time, but Erica knew something was off. That wasn't the way they drank when they truly had a good time That wasn't the way Callie looked at her when they were alone.
She had to stop thinking about this. Maybe she was making too big a deal out of nothing. Last night could have simply been a need to scratch an itch on Callie's part. Too many drinks that led to a sudden lapse in judgment. A stupid little mistake that she probably regretted this morning. Callie would surely make all this clear when they saw each other later in the day. She could just wait until then. She had surgeries to focus on anyway.
They did not see each other that day or the day after that. In the morning of the third day Erica had sent a text to Callie's mobile. Before pressing the send button, she had gone over the wording of it at least 3-4 times, writing and rewriting, and finally settled on "Coffee?"
She figured it was precise and to the point. She wanted to meet her and talk. Yesterday all day Erica had kept a lookout for her, but Callie was nowhere to be seen. After Erica finished her shift she had called her but her phone had gone straight to voicemail. Obviously she was avoiding her, but as a final gesture, this morning Erica had sent the text.
It was now 3.30. p.m, both her back and stomach were aching, her eyes felt heavy and her headache just wouldn't leave her alone. It was fairly safe to say that she was in a bad mood.
In retrospect if she had known that she wasn't going to get a reply to her text she wouldn't have gone over it so many times in her head. She had to wonder if she'd offended Callie somehow. It had been a while since she felt insecure about herself, now that she was feeling it again, she knew for certain that she hadn't missed the feeling.
Maybe she was being childish. Maybe Callie was sick, at home, unable to check her messages, maybe that was why she hadn't seen or heard from her. Maybe Erica was the one being rude.
Christina Yang stood above her, looking at her expectantly.
"Are you all right?" she asked tentatively.
She raised an eyebrow, "What?"
"I called your name a few times but..."
"Is there something you need Yang?"
"Ahm...yes. Dr. Shephard needs a consult."
"Lead the way."
From the surprise in her voice Erica knew that Callie hadn't expected to see her. She instantly felt her insecurity turn into anger in the face of a very healthy looking Callie Torres. She closed the door behind her and walked fully into the observation room.
"Thanks for coming Erica," Derek Shephard raised his head in welcome.
"Derek, Chief. Dr. Torres," she acknowledged the occupants of the room.
"What do we have?"
"I was just about to show Callie the CAT scan for the patient's lower body. If you can take a look at the chest and tell me what you think."
She took a closer look at the film in front of her, trying her hardest not to think about the fact that Callie was standing less than a foot away. Mentally shaking herself, she put on her glasses and leaned closer to the image.
After a moment she blew out the breath she hadn't realized she had been holding.
"How is this guy still alive?"
"I was going to ask you the same thing," Shephard chuckled.
"The body sure is a mysterious thing..." she paused. "Look at the location of this. I haven't seen this kind of an aortic aneurysm in maybe 5 years. What was it a car crash or did he fall off a building?"
"Car," the Chief said as he took a step closer.
"Hmm," she nodded, expecting it to be so. She knew she shouldn't be as excited as she was. This was a man's life they were talking about, but she couldn't wait to get started. This was just the thing she needed to keep her mind focused.
"We shouldn't wait. By some miracle it didn't burst in the actual crash, but it could at any moment. A cough can trigger it. We shouldn't push our luck."
"Dr. Torres, what about the legs?"
"I agree with Dr. Hahn." Callie's eyes met Erica's for a moment, continuing only after Erica looked away. "We should operate immediately. He should get back the feeling in them once I am through with his spine and a few steel plates should fix his knees but we should hurry. Dr. Shephard, I assume you will be going in first?"
The chief continued, taking notes on the folder in his hand. "Dr. Shephard will relieve the swelling in the brain, then Dr. Hahn will come in with the stant. Once she closes up the chest..."
"Actually Chief, I would like to get in through the groin." Erica interrupted, straightening up.
Chief looked up to face her in surprise. "You think there is enough space on the aorta for it to hold on?"
She took off her glasses and ran her hand through her hair. Pointing at the scans hanging on the fluorescent board, she continued. "I'll have a better idea once I do the angiography but I think if I can just bypass this artery, I should have enough space for it to hold on. I'd rather not open him up unless I absolutely have to."
"All right, let's see if that can be done. The less invasive the surgery, the better."
Both Shephard and Callie were leaning against the table, nodding their consent.
"Torres, you will go in last...I am scheduling the surgery for 4:30. You have half an hour ladies and gentleman."
Erica had called her "Dr. Torres." It seemed that Erica was really angry with her, not that she could really blame her. She had been a major bitch in the last few days. She hadn't meant to ignore her, she just didn't know how to face her. And now that she had seen her, she wished she could take back these last few days.
Erica wouldn't even look her in the eye, and when she did, there was no warmth there. Callie had gotten used to being able to read her friend when no one else seemed to be able to. She had gotten used to being let in, behind that cool exterior, behind the hard shell she carried. Callie had been allowed into a place that was warm and sweet and beautiful.
Now on that once so open face, rested the eyes of a stranger. She was officially locked out.
She had thought that she needed time, time to figure out her feelings, time to return to neutral. By distancing herself from Erica she had thought that she could rain in the feelings she had some how lost control of.
But after three days she wasn't in control. She wasn't closer to figuring anything out. All she knew was that the indifference in Erica's eyes hurt her, more than anything she could remember in a long time.
Erica was the first one out of the room when the chief ended the meeting. Callie rushed after her and caught up to her in the corridor.
Erica stopped and slowly turned around.
She had tucked the scans from the room under her arm and was holding them across her chest, in front of her.
To Callie they looked like just another barrier between them.
She sounded nervous. She couldn't help it.
Erica's official tone had Callie tensing even more. She felt her words escape her as she tried to stop rocking on the edges of her sneakers.
"Ahm...how are you?"
"I am fine thanks," she said curtly.
"Good. Ahmm...I just wanted to apologize for not getting back to you. I have been so busy with patients and paperwork. I was gonna call you but I just had no time to myself...one thing after another... Anyway, I am sorry."
"Okay." Erica's face held no emotion.
Callie didn't know what to do. She wasn't getting through to her and judging from the blonde's monosyllabic responses she was running out of time. Looking at her toes she tried again. "Ahm... I..."
"Was there something else?"
She looked up at her in apology. But the eyes looking back at her held no understanding.
"No. No, that's it."
"I'll see you in the OR."
She walked off, leaving Callie behind, feeling like a guilty child.
Erica was proud of the work she did. It had taken longer than she had anticipated but she was almost done with it. As much as she had enjoyed it, she was looking forward to going home.
She had been fighting sudden cramps for hours now and she was tired. Her fatigue definitely had something to do with her recent restless nights and tonight she was planning on changing that. She was going to get a good night's rest even if she had to take a sleeping pill for it. Though she suspected, it wouldn't come to that, she felt like she could crash already.
The screen in front of her told her that a few more centimeters would bring the stant home. Another cramp hit her, hard this time and she had to still her hand. She shut her eyes and exhaled in a long calculated breath. She could feel the blood draining from her face. She could sense the questioning eyes of her staff on her but she was in too much pain to care. Another moment and it would pass, and then she would continue.
"Dr. Hahn?" one of the scrub nurses questioned nervously.
She couldn't reply. She simply continued to breathe.
A moment later she felt another presence behind her.
She knew that Callie had been standing in the back of the room watching the procedure, waiting to scrub in. But as she worked she had forgotten about her. Now her worried voice glaringly reminded Erica of her presence once again. She took in another breath and felt the pain in her abdomen lessen.
She looked back up to the screen, catching the relieved faces of her colleagues.
She held out her hand. It wasn't shaking.
"Let's finish this."
Within minutes she was done. The stant had fit perfectly. He was a lucky man, all things considered. Turning to leave she spotted Callie by the exit. Motioning towards the patient before Callie could speak she said, "All yours," and walked from the room.
The next morning found Callie waiting for Erica in the locker room. She was determined to talk to her and clear the air.
After the surgery the night before she had tried calling her but Erica's phone had been set to forward to voicemail.
She hated this.
Yesterday's apology had obviously not worked, understandably so. She really had been sorry about avoiding her but the excuses she had come up with had sounded lame even to herself. She would try again today, and this time she would be sincere. She wanted to talk with Erica, make sure that she was all right after the surgery.
She had obviously been in some kind of pain during it. Callie hoped that it wasn't something serious.
She wanted to tell her about Addison. Though what she would say, she didn't know. After Addison had brought "it" up, Callie had started watching Erica closely. Watching for anything that could be perceived as more than friendly in the way she treated her. And that night in the bar, when Erica had reached out and touched her lips, she had felt like she found what she had been looking for. Then she had felt naked. She had felt danger. She had felt trapped, trapped in Addison's stare, trapped in her own judgments. The only way out, the only security had seemed to lie in Mark's arms. So that's exactly where she had thrown herself.
Looking back, the touch could have been completely innocent. In fact she was pretty sure it had been. She had read too much into it because of her own fluctuating feelings. They had certainly touched each other more intimately before and she had never reacted the way she had that night. They had hugged. They had held hands. But once the words had been spoken, she was forced to look at herself and Erica in the third person. She had to think about the possibility she had been subconsciously pushing to the back of her mind.
Once the words were spoken, it was all she could think about.
Did Erica even contemplate such a possibility? Look at her as anything more than a close friend? Or had Callie worked herself up for nothing? Had she made herself question what should have been left unquestioned? For now that she had, the need to have it answered seemed all the more intensified.
She wanted to hear Erica's voice. She missed her. She missed her closeness she had gotten so used to without even realizing it.
Today she would wait for her and talk.
Callie waited and waited. But Erica didn't arrive. She didn't see how she could have missed her but she had rounds to do, she couldn't wait any longer. She would find her during lunch.
When lunchtime came around and she still couldn't find her, Callie asked the head nurse if she had seen Erica. She was told that Dr. Hahn would not be coming in today; she had taken a personal day.
That was strange. Erica Hahn never took personal days. As far as she knew, she had never a taken a day off in her life. Callie felt her worry rise with each passing minute.
She tried her cell again. No answer. Something was definitely wrong and she decided she was going to find out what sooner rather than later.
Erica jerked awake to the sound of the banging on her door. Her eyes felt like they weighed a ton each. She tried to sit up but her spinning head sent her back to lying instantly. Whoever was at the door could just go away for all she cared. She wasn't going to get out of this bed. Finally the banging stopped.
She felt drained. She knew she had to eat something, get some energy into her body but whatever she had tried to consume earlier, had found its way out of her system in various unpleasant ways. She did not want to go through that again. Giving up on the venture she closed her eyes and waited for sleep to reclaim her.
"Go away!" She finally squealed covering her face with her pillow.
"ERICA! ERICA ARE YOU IN THERE?"
Was that Callie?
"ERICA! CAN YOU HEAR ME?"
Damn it, she sounded frantic. Erica had to open the door. She pushed herself up with all her might and almost crawled out of her room. A few more steps and she would be there. The task seemed impossible. More banging. Jesus, that was loud.
She reached the door and opened it the few inches the chain allowed.
"Callie what is it?" She asked, her voice not louder than a whisper.
"Hey, are you ok? I was so worried."
"I am fine."
"You didn't answer your cell. And I couldn't reach you on your land line."
"What do you need Callie?" she knew she was being harsh but she couldn't help it.
"Can I come in?"
"I don't think that's a good idea"
"Please, just for a moment"
"This is not a good time Callie."
"Erica, can you please open the door."
She could feel the fight leaving her. She was too weak to be on her guard. And her legs weren't going to hold her up for much longer.
She unchained the door and pulled it open. Turning away from it, Erica glanced back at her bedroom. Deeming it too far she walked over to the couch a few feet away and dropped herself onto it ungracefully.
Callie had followed her in and she now stood in the middle of her living room staring at her with something close to surprise in her eyes. Erica followed her gaze and simultaneously remembered what she was wearing. The single white t-shirt barely touched her thighs. A need for warmth more than modesty had her reaching for the blanket draped over the couch.
The look in Callie's eyes quickly transformed into one of worry.
"You look terrible."
She could barely speak. Even keeping her eyes open was becoming an issue. It seemed the walk to the door had completely drained whatever scarce energy she had left.
"I didn't mean...you know what I mean. What's wrong with you?"
"It's nothing, it's just the flu." she mumbled.
Callie moved in closer and kneeled down next to her. Bringing her hand to rest on Erica's forehead.
"It doesn't look like just the flu."
Her voice was soft, comforting. And despite her resolve to the contrary, Erica found herself leaning into the unexpected touch. She closed her eyes involuntarily.
"Well, the flu... mixed with food poisoning... I think."
Callie pulled back and got up.
"Erica I know you are angry with me but this is just silly. Why didn't you call me?"
"I'll be fine, I just need to rest."
Callie took off her jacket and threw it onto the marble counter next to her bag.
"I thought you were just going to stay for a minute."
"I lied. Now close your eyes and try to get some sleep."
She had already closed her eyes when she asked, "What about you?"
"Shh. I'll be here."
That was the last thing Erica heard, before she surrendered to darkness.
While Erica slept, Callie kept busy. She first checked the fridge to make sure there was something edible in it. There wasn't. So she called her father's driver, giving him a list of groceries to buy and an instruction to text her when he arrived, instead of ringing the doorbell. Then she went about tidying up the house.
When it came time to enter Erica's bedroom, she hesitated. It somehow seemed wrong to go in there without an invitation. She stood by the open door and looked in. Curtains were drawn but at this hour of the afternoon enough light came through to see the mess. The king sized bed was all rumpled up. Erica's discarded clothes lay crumpled by the feet of the bed. There were opened bottles of medicine spattering the night table and on the floor next to it, books that had been pushed down to make space. Erica had obviously been in too much pain to think about the mess she was making. For an anally tidy person such as Erica that was already saying a lot about the severity of her discomfort.
The room needed to be aired out, and the sheets needed to be changed. Her mind made up, she walked in. She would go about her work as quickly as she could, with the least amount of possible invasion to Erica's privacy.
By the time Callie was finished with the bedroom, the food had already arrived. After putting the finishing touches to her mother's chicken soup, she walked over to Erica and once again kneeled beside her. Even in her disheveled shape, Erica looked beautiful. Her hair, wild, rested on her shoulders. Thanks to the light coming from the kitchen the parts Callie could see, glowed in the otherwise dark living room. Callie suddenly had the urge to run her hand through the unruly locks. Contemplating for a moment, she settled on patting her on the head.
Her hand came away wet.
She immediately reached over and turned on the lamp next to the couch. Erika's skin looked hot and clammy. She was shivering.
She quickly felt for her forehead, then her neck. Damn it, she was burning up.
"Erica. Wake up."
She didn't even stir.
"Erica, wake up sweetheart."
She ran inside and grabbed the thermometer she had seen by the nightstand earlier. In the next moment she was back by Erica's side, inserting the tip of the digital gadget into her ear. Within seconds she had a result; 105.9
Callie grabbed her shoulders and started shaking her. Gently at first, then more forcefully when she didn't get a response. She had to carry her to the shower.
She tried to pull the blanket back but, finally returning to a sort of semi-consciousness, Erica started fighting her. Mumbling incomprehensibly she tried to roll away.
"Erica, you have to wake up now!"
Callie reached for her once again, managing to wrap her arms around her waist. She rolled her over to face her and started pulling her up when suddenly Erica's eyes blinked open. Callie could actually see the emotion travel across her face.
And not just any fear but fear for her life. In the next instance Erica was screaming. Screaming at the top of her lungs, and trying to fight her way out of her arms with all her might.
"SNAAAKE! SNAAAKE! HELP ME!"
"ERICA, IT'S ME CALLIE! IT'S CALLIE!" she was holding on to her, trying to stop her from thrashing about.
"GET IT OFF ME! HELLPP! SNAAAAKE!" tears were actually falling down her cheeks.
"ERICA YOU ARE HALLUCINATING, YOU HAVE TO WAKE UP!"
"IT'S TRYING TO KILL ME! HELLLP!"
In her haste to get away from Callie, Erica ended up smacking her on the face. Callie had no choice but to let her go. But she wasn't going to let her go far. She had to do something or Erika was going to hurt herself. When she spotted the glass of water on the coffee table, she instinctually grabbed it and threw its contents right onto Erica's face.
Erica shrieked. Then, she stopped moving. Blinking a few times, she brought up her arms to hug herself. Shivering uncontrollably she opened her mouth.
"Thank God. Erica, are you ok?"
"What's going on?"
"You were hallucinating."
She held up her hands and started walking towards Erica as non-threateningly as possible. Moving slightly behind her Callie slowly took hold of her right arm and placed her left arm on her waist.
"Come on." She nudged her forward.
"I am so cold."
She looked so helpless Callie could feel her heart breaking at the sight of her. She held on tighter.
"I know sweetheart."
"I think I have a fever."
Callie smiled for the first time that day.
"I think you may be right."
They moved down the hall, Callie trying to hurry but Erica's weakened state holding them back.
"Come on, just a few more steps."
She led her into the bathroom and set her on the toilet seat.
"What are you doing?"
"You have to take a shower honey."
"No. No. I am feeling better."
Reaching over she opened the glass door and turned the cold water on.
"Erica you have to. You have a fever of 106."
"Callie, please I can't," she was visibly shaking. "I just have to go to bed."
Erica stood up and turned towards the door. Before she could leave, Callie held on to her shoulders.
"Erica please, come on. You were screaming that I was a snake. What if you have another hallucination? What if you hurt yourself?"
"Look, I'll go in with you. We'll do it together."
Callie bent down and took off her shoes. She could feel the cold tiles under her bare feet.
"We'll take a shower together. It will be fun."
Erica looked at her incredulously, rolling her eyes as if to say "You must be kidding."
Erica simply shook her head.
"Erica, you are a doctor, you know this. You have to cool off," she was starting to get scared and her voice reflected her frustration.
"Callie, you don't understand, I am freezing! I can't do it, I can't!"
Callie stared at her unflinchingly. Then very slowly unbuttoned her shirt. Not losing eye contact, she stepped into the shower and whispered.
"Erica if you care for me one bit, you will get in this shower."
Erica stood still, moving her head from side to side without a pattern. She looked miserable. In the face of Callie's unwavering resolve her eyes started filling with unshed tears. Then very slowly she took a step forward, then another one. She started crying for earnest as she stepped into the cold shower.
Callie was crying as well. She opened her arms and pulled Erica into them, making sure there was no space between them. They stood under the cold of the water. Callie in her black bra and jeans. Erica in nothing but a white t-shirt.
Soaking, holding on to each other, Erica shaking and Callie shaking with her.
"I know baby, I know."
Erica pulled out the thermometer and read it out loud.
"Good, it's going down."
Callie sat next to her on the bed, handing her 2 pills and a glass of water.
"Panadol," she said in explanation.
After the chilling shower Callie had helped her out of her t-shirt and into a pair of blue pajamas. Erica had insisted on drying her own hair, sitting on the toilet, while Callie changed into a pair of Erica's old sweats.
Now she was safely tucked in her bed, and miraculously she was feeling a little better.
She swallowed the pills.
"Finish the whole glass, we don't want you getting dehydrated."
Callie smiled at her with compassion.
"How are you feeling?"
"Better...thanks... for you know, making me take that shower."
They had been so intimate during that awful shower. She didn't know if it was one of the best or worst experiences of her life. And afterwards, once the crisis was over, she had feared that they weren't going to know how to be around each other. Now, they were sitting and talking as though nothing happened. But something had happened, hadn't it?
"Are you hungry?" Callie asked.
"No, not really."
"When was the last time you ate something?"
"And what did you have?"
Erica could clearly tell, this was Callie Torres the doctor asking.
"Aha...and you started feeling sick how long after?"
"A few hours maybe..."
"I see...Erica, I think you have Ciguatera."
"Ciguatera. It's a kind of food poisoning you get from marine reef-fish. It's basically a toxin the fish eats in its usual environment. And when you eat the fish you get sick."
"It's more common in tropical fish. You know, like barracudas, but sometimes if you are lucky enough you can catch a snapper with it, or Spanish bass or even mackerel. And you can't tell when the fish is bad, it doesn't smell, it doesn't change color so you wouldn't have noticed anything wrong with it."
"How do you know this?"
"Well the symptoms match. Cramps, diarrhea, vomiting, headache, weakness, fever, hallucinations...but don't worry it shouldn't last long. Lots of fluids, enough rest, you'll be up in no time."
"No, I mean, you know this how?"
"I am a doctor you know."
"Really?" Erica asked keeping her voice light.
"Yeah, and not a bad one either."
"Let's not forget modest.
"Yes, very modest."
Erica lifted her hand and placed it on Callie's arm.
"You are a great doctor Callie."
She said it seriously, looking into Callie's eyes, making sure she understood that she meant it. Callie looked down at her arm, where Erica's hand was resting and smiled.
After a moment Erica pulled her hand back.
"So how do you know so much about poisonous fish?"
"Well...let's just say it's a hobby."
Erica looked at her expectantly, urging her to carry on.
"When I was a little girl my father and I, we used to go scuba diving all the time. It was our thing you know. I mean, he was always working but he did make time for that. We would go all over, traveling to Europe, to Israel, to the Maldives... anywhere you can think of, we would go especially ..."
Callie spoke with a far away look on her face, as though she could see the places she was talking about.
"Anyway, as you can imagine fish became somewhat of an obsession and before I decided on orthopedics, lets just say marine biology was something I considered for about two minutes...under the sea, it's so incredible. I know it sounds cheesy but there are really magnificent creatures down there, and so many different kinds you wouldn't believe it. And the names. You should hear some of the names. Did you know that in the Mediterranean there is a yellow fish that is actually called Picasso? And there are these little red guys that are called clown fish, but I hear they are not really funny."
She was giggling to her own joke when she caught the amused look on Erica's face.
"I am rambling. Sorry. Long story short, it's a hobby."
"You look cute when you ramble."
"Yeah, cute like a geek."
"Hey, geek is in now."
Erica was getting sleepy again, she couldn't help it. She didn't want this conversation to end; chats where Callie opened up to her, spoke about her childhood were some of her favorites. She yawned as discreetly as possible but Callie caught it.
"Hmm. What time is it?"
"Quarter to eleven."
"Wow, it's getting late. You should probably head home."
"Nice. Now that you've had your fun, you are kicking me out?"
"No. Of course not... oh you're kidding. Sorry the damn fish is making me slower than usual. I just meant, you must be exhausted, you have been here for hours."
"I'm fine, don't worry about me."
"No buts. I like where I am and that comfy looking couch in the living room has my name on it. Unless you don't want me to stay."
"It's not that. It's..."
"Ok then. It's settled. I shall stay."
"You shall stay?"
"Yes. I shall."
Callie looked relieved to be joking around after all the tense moments they had been through. Erica knew she had been scared, even though she had put on a strong face. Hell, Erica had been scared. They were doctors, and they saw much more serious things at work everyday. But when it came to someone you cared about, even the smallest flu became something to worry over.
"There are clean sheets in the closet down the corridor," she made a move to get up but Callie stopped her with her hand.
"I know where they are."
"Right... you changed my sheets."
"I hope you don't mind that I did that. I would have asked but you were sleeping."
"No, it's great. You don't have to ask. Thanks for doing it."
"You are welcome."
"I didn't know you were so handy. You cook, you clean, you play doctor."
Erica laughed nervously. She hadn't meant that the way it came out. Callie simply smiled.
"And here you thought I was just a pretty face."
Callie's eyes were shimmering playfully.
"I always thought you were much more than a pretty face Cal."
Callie looked at her then, with an unreadable expression on her face. She looked like she was about to say something, then thought better of it and looked away.
"You should sleep. You need your rest."
"You are right."
She got up to leave.
"Ok, I'm gonna go inside."
"Are you sure you'll be comfortable?"
"Yes, I will. Don't worry."
"If you say so."
"I do, call me if you need anything."
She was almost out of the door when Erica called out.
The words were out of her mouth before she could stop herself.
"Are we going to talk about what happened this week?"
Callie stopped. Then turned around to face her.
After a moment she spoke.
"Yes... but not yet."
Callie was looking at her so fearfully; all Erica could do was to say, "Ok."
"Good night Erica."
"Good night Callie."
Even hours after she got onto the couch, Callie couldn't sleep. She was too worried about Erica. She knew that if Erica was able to talk with her as much as she had, that meant that she was feeling better. But she also knew that once she got back to sleep, there was a very possible chance of her fever going back up, despite the medication she had given her. She had to keep her monitored.
She listened for any possible sound or movement that would come from the next room. Each time she heard the rustle of sheets, the creaking of the bed she straightened. Finally she gave up lying down all together and sat up, looking at her watch on the coffee table. The only way she was going to relax was if she had a plan. That's when the idea of making rounds on Erica came to her. Every 45 minutes she would go and check on her. Setting the alarm on her cell phone, she leaned back and closed her eyes.
On her third round, she walked into the bedroom to find a trashing and turning Erica. She was mumbling in her sleep, fighting an invisible attacker.
Nightmares. That was another symptom for Ciguatera. Callie had been half-expecting them. She had known that as Erica went deeper and deeper into her REM state, nightmares were something that she might face.
She sat down next to her on the bed. Gently touching Erica's shoulder she whispered.
"Shh...it's ok... it's ok, you are safe."
She was stroking her hair, speaking softly, saying little nothings of comfort. Bit by bit Erica started settling until she was once again calm and seemingly peaceful in her sleep.
Callie had a decision to make. She could keep going back and forth to the living room and possibly be late to catch another nightmare before it started or she could stay here and watch over Erica. It wasn't a hard choice.
She got up and walked over to the empty side of the big bed. With as little disturbance as possible, she sat and finally lay down beside Erica.
Erica woke up with a jerk. Her heart pounding in her throat, she looked around in the dark frantically, trying to make sense of her surroundings. She was in her room. It was just a dream. She was safe. She was hot.
Boiling in fact.
Her pajamas had turned navy from all the sweating. She sat up and pulled the sticky clothing off her with one move. Crumpled the top in her hand, dried herself with it, and threw it to the far corner of the room.
She jumped off the bed shrieking. Hell, she almost jumped out of her skin.
"Fuck! Shit Callie! You scared me!"
"Sorry. I am so sorry." Callie quickly sat up.
"What are you doing here?"
"You were having a nightmare and I was trying to calm you down. I must have fallen asleep...I'll go." She moved to get up.
"No. No, it's ok. You just... scared me."
"Did you have another nightmare?"
"How are you feeling?"
She walked over to her cupboard through memory more than sight and picked up a t-shirt and a pair of boxers. She was too warm to wear pajamas and she wasn't going to lie next to Callie naked.
"I am just gonna go to the bathroom."
She shut the door behind her and turned on the lights in the small place. Squinting at the brightness, she lowered her head and sat on the toilet.
She was ready for this night to be over. Waking up over and over from nightmares wasn't what she considered fun. As for Callie, she didn't know what to think about her. She was being so nice, taking care of her. And even though Erica had tried to send her away, she was glad that Callie stayed over. Though there still was much to clear in the air.
After she was done she got up, exchanged her panties for the boxers, put on the t-shirt and washed her hands. Splashing water on to her face, she looked up at the mirror. Her eyes were puffy. Her cheekbones more defined. She must have lost a few pounds over the past few days. She would make herself eat something tomorrow.
When she got back into her bedroom, the light by the bedside table was on. Callie was sitting by the foot of her bed, holding up a glass of water.
"I should have warned you about the nightmares, those are also normal."
"Thanks," she took the glass and sat back down on the bed. "That's good, 'cause that was just fucked up."
"What did you see?"
"I don't know, I think... I was in a cemetery. I was in a casket, buried alive. And then the cemetery was flooded and I was floating around and I think there was a shark. I didn't know if I was gonna suffocate, drown or be eaten."
"Yeah. And I think Sloan was there."
"Yeah... Maybe...and maybe you, I don't remember exactly."
"Me? What was I doing?"
Callie moved up closer to her and brought the thermometer up to her ear.
"Let's check your fever."
"It should be going down 'cause I've been sweating like I've been in a sauna for the last hour."
"Hence the water."
"Right." The thermometer beeped, "101.2...see, told you."
"Better. But it's still a fever."
"What time is it?"
"Did you get any sleep?"
Erica wasn't buying it. Callie's eyes looked red and tired.
"You should try to sleep Callie. I appreciate you taking care of me but you have to sleep or I won't either."
"Hey. You don't get to call ultimatums."
"My house, my rules."
Erica had a smirk on her face. Callie shook her head smiling. She lifted her hand to her forehead in salute.
Erica lied down, resting her head on her pillow. Callie got up and turned to face her.
"Do you mind if I stay here?"
"No, of course not. Well, as long as I have the left side."
"Deal...I'll just feel better if I am here."
Erica simply nodded. Callie walked over to the right side of the bed and settled next to her. Once she was settled, Erica reached over and turned off the light.
"Sweet dreams Callie."
"Yeah. You too."
"I hope so."
They lay in silence. In the dark, side by side.
She had fantasized about having Callie in her bed. This wasn't exactly how she had imagined it but she would take it.
Thirty minutes had passed and Callie was still awake. Her mind wouldn't quiet down. Now of all times she felt like talking. Talking about what Addison had implied. Now that Erica was asleep... She couldn't believe herself. Out of nowhere she was ready. Ready for what she didn't know but she had to say something. She could feel the need build up in her, grow into something solid.
She rolled onto her side towards Erica. Erica was also on her side, turned away from her. She raised herself up on to her elbow and whispered.
"Hey, you awake?"
There was no response. No movement.
"Erica, you awake?"
"Damn. I have to say this...if I don't say it now; I don't think I can say it again."
Her voice sounded like it was going to break at any moment.
She took a deep breath and lied back down, looking up at the ceiling. After a moment she spoke again, quiet as a bug.
"I slept with Mark. You know I slept with Mark. And I have been avoiding you, but when she was here... Addison said... well she implied that... that... that we... that I... that I was... that ahm... you and I might be lesbians. So I slept with Mark. I was scared..."
Lifting her arms over her head, she started playing with her hair nervously.
"I am still scared. But, I don't know, I just couldn't keep avoiding you... You are so... I mean you are... great and when I am with you I feel like, like I am great also. Like someone finally sees me. And, I see you, I think I see you. You are strong and smart and beautiful, caring and stubborn as an ox. And funny, God you are so funny. And it feels like we click and you are right there with me all the time, even before I say something... and I... God this is so bad... I... when I get close to you, my heart starts beating faster and...I want to hold you and... touch you and I know that's not supposed to happen."
She blew out an exasperated breath.
"What am I doing... I don't know what I am doing... Anyway, I just wanted to say it, that's all. I had to say it... I am sorry if this is something that will change the way you look at me. I am sorry if you can't be my friend any more... though I hope that doesn't happen. I hope that doesn't happen so badly... Erica?"
There was still no response. Nothing.
"Listen if you aren't awake and you didn't hear me or if you are awake and didn't want to hear me, either way we'll just go to sleep now. Or maybe I will go to sleep now, since you already seem to be there... and in the morning we can just pretend that this never happened... if that's what you want. Me...I don't know what I want. Just... just don't hate me."
She rolled away from her and faced the window. Tucking her arm under her pillow, she pulled the covers over her head and hid away.
She did not see it when Erica opened her eyes...
When Callie woke up, she was alone in the bed. She sat up, her legs hanging from the side, and looked behind to the empty side. Had she really said all those things last night. Trying not to think about its possible consequences she got up and walked into the living room.
Erica was in the kitchen, by the looks of it, preparing breakfast. She walked over tentatively and stopped by the door, a safe distance away.
"Hey," her voice was raspy to her own ears.
"Good morning sleepy head."
"What time is it?" she asked rubbing her eyes.
"11.00... I am making French toast and eggs. Hope you're hungry."
When she didn't say anything Erica looked over her shoulder and smiled.
"The food will be ready in 5 if you wanna freshen up."
She stood still, looking at Erica searchingly. Unlike her, the blonde seemed like she didn't have a worry in the world. She simply went back to her cooking.
"I have a spare toothbrush under the sink."
"Thanks." She turned away and walked into the bathroom.
Like nothing happened it would be. Callie tried to lift her stomach from the depths it had fallen. She couldn't help it, she felt disappointed. Too stunned to think, she went about washing up, after a while she looked up at the mirror. Her hair was pulled back, her jeans were back on, she looked as fresh as she was going to look under the circumstances. She tried on a smile, it looked forced at best. Letting it drop, she walked out of the bathroom and back into the kitchen.
Erica looked up from the pan in her hand.
"You took your time, sit missy."
The cheerier she sounded the worse Callie felt.
Two place mats were set on the table, across from one another. She sat behind the one Erica pointed at. As soon as she was settled Erica came over with said pan and put a pair of eggs onto her plate and then did the same to her own and set down across from her.
Erica had obviously taken a shower. Her hair glowed over her shoulders. She was wearing grey sweatpants and a black t-shirt and her face had some of its color back.
"You look... better."
"I feel better," she said, buttering her toast, "My appetite is back, thank God, and my fever is down. Still feeling a little weak, but much, much better than yesterday."
"That's good," she played with her food. "I am glad."
"Thanks to you."
The smile that followed didn't reach her eyes and she rubbed at her temple absently.
Erica's eyes widened in worry, "Hey, what happened to your face?"
Erica reached over and gently touched the small swollen bruise on her forehead.
Callie felt her breath hitch, "Oh, that. It's nothing."
"Was that there yesterday?" Erica asked softly, her eyes troubled.
Callie shrugged, pulling back dismissingly. "I must have hit it somewhere."
Erica took a bite from her bread looking like she was trying to think back to the day before. Going through the events in her head, she suddenly stopped chewing and with a frown on her face, said "Hey, did I do that?"
Callie looked away "It's nothing, it's ok."
"I did, didn't I?" she sounded horrified, "Cal, I'm so sorry."
"Its not fine, you are disfigured because of me."
"I'm not disfigured. It'll pass."
But she wouldn't listen. Callie could see her working herself up over this.
Erica looked like she wanted to reach over once again and touch her, but held herself back, "Does it hurt?"
She shook her head, "Not really."
"What can I do? Tell me a way to make it up to you."
"Hey, calm down. It's nothing and there is nothing to make up. I promise I can barely feel it."
And that was the truth; the stupid little bruise was the last thing on her mind.
Still blaming herself, Erica unnecessarily tried to reassure her, "I must have been out of it. I would never knowingly..."
Before she could say more Callie caught her line of thinking and in reflex silenced her by reaching over and stilling her fidgeting hand with her own. "Erica," she said slowly, "I know that you would never hurt me intentionally."
Erica nodded in agreement.
Feeling like she had made her point, Callie pulled back and picked up her fork.
They ate in silence. Awkward silence.
Callie kept going over what she had said the night before in her head. In the face of Erica's indifference she wished she could take it back. Instead she sat, trying to eat, trying to act normal. But how could she act normal when she felt like there was a hole where her stomach should be. She had to get out of here before she embarrassed herself further.
"What are your plans for the day?" Erica interrupted her thoughts.
Looking up she said, "It's Saturday, so... go home I guess. Do some laundry, maybe read a book."
"You are so wild, you party animal."
She was trying to pull Callie into their sarcastic banter they usually so enjoyed, but Callie wasn't in the mood. Still, not to leave her hanging, the brunette smiled in forced politeness.
Erica looked at her, puzzled. "You okay?"
She should have known the blonde wasn't going to let her get away with polite smiles and monosyllabic answers for long.
She nodded, "Tired."
"Right, of course... you must be exhausted."
Erica picked up her empty plate and walked over to the sink. After a moment, she turned around to face her "Listen Callie...about yesterday, I wanted to..." She stopped, looking like she was trying to find the right words.
Callie could feel her heart beat in her throat. "Yes?"
"Well...I wanted to thank you, for everything that you did."
Callie could feel the disappointment wash over her once again.
Erica continued "Really, you have been so wonderful, taking care of me... Cooking and cleaning and nursing me to health. You are a really good friend and I want you to know that I truly appreciate it...so, thank you."
These were not the words she wanted to hear. Instead of making her feel better, they pushed her into a silent misery.
Erica looked at her smiling, waiting for her to accept her thanks. So she did the only thing she could do. Smiled back and said, "You are welcome."
After breakfast they walked into the living room together. Before Erica could sit down or say anything Callie walked over to the marble counter and picked up her jacket.
"I should get going."
"Already? You sure you don't want to hang out for a bit, I promise to be better company then yesterday."
But Callie couldn't. As much as she wanted to spend time with Erica, right now she wanted to be as far away from her as possible.
"I don't think so, but thanks."
Erica stood by the arm of the brown leather chair, "Do you want to, maybe get a drink later?" she asked tentatively.
Callie was standing in the middle of the living room, buttoning her jacket, looking at the blonde surgeon.
"You shouldn't drink yet. Give your stomach some time to settle."
"Right, of course you're right... How about tomorrow?" she asked hopefully.
"Ahm ... yeah, maybe."
But as the words left her, she felt them to be wrong. She couldn't meet her tomorrow. She couldn't meet her period. She had been fooling herself thinking that she could act like nothing was different. She was different. With sudden clarity and heartbreak she knew that she couldn't be friends with Erica anymore. Not like this.
"Actually, I can't," she said with determination, not leaving any room for arguments.
"Oh," Erica said in disappointment. "Okay... I guess we can do it some other time."
Callie looked at her then, like a man looks at his wife right before he goes off to war. She stood there, tracing the lines of her face with her gaze, memorizing every little inch of her, with no hope of seeing her again. She would be seeing her of course, at work, but never again like this; so unguarded, so vulnerable.
She walked up to her and after a moment of contemplation leaned forward and hugged her. Erica hugged her back. She buried her face into the blonde's hair and inhaled. The blonde's arms tightened around her in response. Another thing to remember: her scent.
"I'd better get going."
She slowly removed herself from Erica's embrace and turned around.
After today everything would be different between them. She took a step, then another. Then, suddenly she was looking at Erica and blurting out, "How did you sleep last night?"
"Uhm..." Erica looked startled at the abrupt question, "well...pretty good, after that last nightmare...you?"
"Yeah, fine." She couldn't leave without knowing, "Uhm... Did you... last night did you..."
She was going to continue but Erica looked at her so innocently, seemingly so unaware that she couldn't bring herself to finish her sentence.
Instead she said,
"Nothing...Nothing, don't worry about it."
She looked into her eyes one last time. A long moment that was just her own and breathed out the words, "Good bye, Erica."
Erica, her brows raised high, leaned on the arm of the chair, looking at her curiously and matching Callie's tone said, "Bye."
Callie turned around, and was almost out of the door when Erica called out to her.
The strength and sharpness of the tone, more than hearing her name called halted Callie into a stop.
She turned around, looked back at the blonde, and gasped. Erica's face looked completely different from a moment ago. She looked straight at her, unflinching, almost predatorily. She got up and slowly walked towards her, her face unmistakably determined.
She came and stood right in front of her, maybe less than a foot away, looking into her eyes, so penetratingly it seemed to Callie that she was trying to see into her soul. After tracing the length of her face, her gaze finally settled on her mouth. Callie, in reflex licked her lips and swallowed. In the next instance Erica was taking another step closer to her, putting her hand on her waist, trapping her against the door.
Then, incredibly, Erica's lips were on hers. She was kissing her, gently at first, then, when Callie parted her lips, hungrily, urgently. One of her arms pulling on her waist, the other in her hair; she was kissing her with all of her being. The moan that escaped Callie only served to fuel the fire that was already burning high.
She gripped Erica's back and parting her legs involuntarily, pulled her closer. When Erica's mouth moved from her lips to her neck Callie felt her knees give away.
"Oh god," she groaned, trembling.
Before she could fall down Erica took her fully into her arms, supporting her weight with her own and stilled their movement. Callie dropped her head onto Erica's shoulder, trying to slow the beating of her heart.
That was all it had taken for Callie to realize that she had never been kissed before. Not in the true meaning of the word. It had left her throbbing, wanting, out of her mind. She feared the intensity of more intimate touches would be the end of her.
It was too much, all too much, without knowing Callie started crying. Erica was holding her close, tenderly kissing the top of her head; then her temple, then her eyes. When she felt the moisture on her lips, she arched back, raising Callie's face with gentle fingers under her chin, to look into her eyes.
Erica smiled at her sadly, her eyes filled with compassion.
Callie lifted her arms; gently taking the blonde's face into her hands she brought her lips to Erica's. Smiling through teary eyes she said "You did hear me."
Erica nodded, once again kissing Callie's forehead, she sighed, "I heard you."
"Why didn't you say something?" Her voice wasn't harsh, merely curious.
Erica simply shrugged. After a moment she spoke:
"At first, I didn't know if it was real...then, I didn't know if you wanted me to."
Callie cuddled in closer, resting her forehead against the surgeon's, her eyes shimmering with joy.
"I wanted you to."
Erica laughed. Unrestrained, lightly, without anything weighing her down for the first time in a long time.
"Now I know."
She too laughed at that, feeling giddy and lighthearted. Bringing her hands to rest on Erica's chest she asked
"What does this mean?"
Erica shook her head. "I don't know." Then looking into her eyes, with all the confidence in the world she said, "But we'll figure it out."
Callie nodded, smiling. They would figure it out, as long as they were together, she didn't doubt it for a minute.
Bringing her hands to her chest Erica took Callie's hands into her own and squeezed in affection.
Callie kissed her, parting her lips, savoring her taste, still amazed at the liberty to do so. She could kiss her forever; it was the most amazing feeling.
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